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Organizations on local, state level work to increase children's literacy during summer

For United Way, it's a Summer of Action, and for the Hartford Public Library, it's the Summer Space Mission.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut organizations on the local and state levels are working to increase children's literacy during the summer to ensure kids don't fall behind academically.

For United Way, it's a Summer of Action, meant to reduce summer learning loss with an emphasis on reading.

"One of the really important parts of reading during the summer is because we're going from this phase of learning to re-to reading to learn," explained Eric Harrison, President & CEO, United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut. "So, fourth-grade proficiency it's a really important goal of ours at a United Way."

The organization provided books and read with children at Camp Courant on July 6, a United Way-supported summer program, according to a United Way news release. Children received an age-appropriate book to help build their home libraries. 

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Harrison said these efforts are vital because many kids in ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employedcommunities fall three grade levels behind in the summer compared to some of their peers.

"It's important for kids to just get a leg up before they start school in the fall," said Harrison.

Harrison explained that opportunities for families to enroll their children in affordable, enriching summer programs that help keep them on track developmentally when school is out are essential. 

Lina Osho-Williams, Asst. Director for Youth and Family Services with Hartford Public Library agreed. She said Hartford Public Library hosts a wide variety of summer programs for kids and families free of charge that also helps provide kids with tools and resources to succeed in reading and learning. 

"Children need to continue to read throughout the summer months because if they don't read, they're going to fall behind," explained Osho-Williams.  

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These shared sentiments for community literacy are why United Way partnered with Hartford Public schools and Hartford Public Library on Hartford Summer Space Mission to take the reading initiative even further. 

"The whole idea is to bring the community together so that we are all on the same level and helping our children," said Osho-Williams.  

The 2022 summer reading theme is space, so there's a wide variety of themed books at the library for children and families to enjoy. However, with the Summer Space Mission comes a pledge to read 20 minutes daily. 

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"We really want kids just to get involved," stressed Harrison. "And all they need to do is 20 minutes a day, take 20 minutes out of your day during the summer, you're going to have a huge leg up."  

Many kids in the greater Hartford community have already pledged. Harrison said there were more than four million minutes pledged for summer reading last year, and this year they're hoping to exceed that. 

"So far, we have over 700 kids reading, and every week we have a raffle drawing for children to win cool prizes," said Osho-Williams.

For more information about Hartford Summer Space Mission, click here. 

For more information about United Way Summer of Action, click here.

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at rharrington@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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